Vision, Speech and Signal Processing PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates

January 2023
April 2023
July 2023
Part-time - 8 years

Start dates

January 2023
April 2023
July 2023

Why choose this programme

At the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP), we’re developing exciting and ground-breaking technologies. These include facial recognition for security and medical imaging, through to 3D spatial audio and 3D reconstruction from video for visual-effects production in films, games and virtual reality. Our research is creating machines that can see, hear and understand the world around them.

The Centre is one of the largest audio and vision research groups in Europe, and we’re internationally recognised for our pioneering research and novel technologies in audio-visual machine perception. We bring together a unique combination of cutting-edge sound and vision expertise with more than 170 researchers, and we’ve currently attracted more than £30 million in research grants.

Our research aims to advance the state-of-the-art in audio-visual signal processing, computer vision and machine learning, with a focus on image, video and audio applications. We have expertise and activities in computer vision, digital signal processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, computer graphics and human computer interaction, and data science for media, medical image analysis and multimedia communication.

We often collaborate with industry and our research has led to frequent technology transfer and exploitation, with previous research projects having resulted in award-winning spin-out companies in biometrics, communications, medical technologies and in the creative industries.

The University of Surrey ranked 15th in the UK for research power for engineering by the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. We are now also ranked in the top 20 in the UK for the overall quality of research outputs – research papers and other published works.

Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

What you will study

You can take a maximum of four years of full-time study to complete our PhD programme. After 12 months, you’ll write a confirmation report, which is assessed by two independent examiners. After that, you’ll submit a written PhD thesis after a minimum of three years of full-time study.

You’ll be allocated two Surrey-based academic supervisors, in addition to any external collaborative supervisors. Your principal supervisor will be an expert in your area of research and they’ll be in charge of monitoring your research progress on a regular basis. Your supervisors will help you define the initial objective and scope of your research, and to refine these as your project evolves. They’ll direct you to resources and they’ll be able to advise you on how to complete your PhD and your thesis. We often appoint external collaborative supervisors to contribute specific expertise or to allow access to external resources or organisations.

You’ll also be assigned to a research group, which includes a team of academics, postdoctoral researchers, guest scientists and fellows. Lots of our research at CVSSP is interdisciplinary and you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with scientists at universities, research establishments and industries around the world. We encourage active interaction with your peers and our researchers and academics, and we offer a friendly environment that nurtures openness and collaboration. You’ll be encouraged to present your research at well-renowned national and international conferences to gain experience and establish networks with leading researchers.

Our monthly seminars are open to all postgraduate researchers and we host leading experts from other institutions within the UK and from overseas, who give talks to members of the Centre in specific areas of research. In addition, our postgraduate researchers also attend regular internal seminars, where you’ll be able to present your individual research or practice presentations you’d like to give at conferences or events.

The University also holds an annual postgraduate researcher conference on campus, where you’ll be able to showcase your work and network with other researchers and academics.

You may be eligible to apply for membership with the British Machine Vision Association, the Audio Engineering Society, the British Computer Society and the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). You may also apply for Chartered Engineer status with the Engineering Council UK and with the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE).


Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.

Research support

The professional development of postgraduate researchers is supported by the Doctoral College, which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate Careers and Employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after the completion of your PhD.

Research themes

Our research activities within CVSSP are grouped into the following areas: 

  • The A-Lab focuses on machine audition, developing audio signal processing technology relating to speech recognition, and blind source separation.
  • The B-Lab focuses on biometric- and security-related technologies, specialising in facial biometrics and lip tracking.
  • The C-Lab focuses on cognitive systems, covering a broad range of technologies relating to visual interaction with computers. These include sign language recognition and robotics
  • The I-Lab focuses on multimedia communications, including audio-visual coding, annotation, search, broadcast and streaming technologies.
  • The M-Lab focuses on medical imaging technologies and works closely with leading healthcare institutions.
  • The V-Lab focuses on computer vision and machine learning for visual media, specialising in 3D and 4D content production for film, TV and VR, including performance capture, animation, visual action recognition and audio-visual scene understanding.

Our six research themes cover a range of topics, including – but not limited to – the following: 

  • Computer vision 
  • Machine learning 
  • Robotics and autonomous systems 
  • 3D and 4D video 
  • 3D spatial audio 
  • Biometrics 
  • Blind source separation 
  • Coding and transmission 
  • Facial analysis 
  • Human motion analysis 
  • Media adaptation 
  • Media networking 
  • Medical image acquisition 
  • Medical image analysis 
  • Quality of experience 
  • Sign and gesture analysis 
  • Speech and audio processing 
  • Surveillance 
  • Video and audio retrieval 
  • Interfaces/visual interaction.

Our academic staff

See a full list of all our academic staff within the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP).

Research facilities

We host a number of cutting-edge laboratory facilities in the Centre to support the exciting research being carried out by all its members and associates. 

4D computer vision 

The Audio-Visual Lab hosts a state-of-the-art capture studio with unique multiple UltraHD cameras supporting research in real-time audio visual processing and visualisation. We collaborate with companies specialising in film, TV, games, virtual and augmented reality. 

Spatial audio and machine audition 

The Audio Lab facilities include a purpose built audio booth and the Surrey Sound Sphere, which is the centrepiece of our cutting-edge audio and acoustics research. It includes 64 Genelec speakers with audio interfaces, 48 configurable channels, a pre-amplified microphone array and an acoustically isolated audio booth. 

The Surrey Sound Sphere has supported research on personal sound zones, human sound localisation and object-based 3D spatial audio as part of the S3A research collaboration. This is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). 

Biometrics and face recognition 

We have cutting-edge equipment supporting research into 3D face recognition, including facial feature types, emotion recognition and face models for biometrics. This is part of the FACER2VM EPSRC Programme Grant. 


Our Robot Lab supports research into autonomous systems, collaborative mapping, autonomous navigation and robotic machine learning, and links closely with our expertise in computer vision, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Facilities include a Baxter robot and various mobile robot platforms. 

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good Masters degree (distinction normally required).

International entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

View the other English language qualifications that we accept.

If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.

Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.


Start date: January 2023





Start date: April 2023





Start date: July 2023





For fees payable in 2022/23, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

Overseas students applying for 2022 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.


A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.

How to apply

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, you should enter the details of the specific project that you wish to apply for rather than your own research proposal.

More information on the application process.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees. The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) for the 2022/2023 academic year as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.


This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read our full disclaimer.

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey Admissions

Contact Admissions Team


University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH